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Let’s say you’re at a rockin’ party, circa 1985. It’s way New Wave. The host is dressed shamefully, like Eddie Murphy in Raw. The chicks (it’s still okay to call them “chicks” back now) all look awful, their faces mannequins smeared with crushed berries, their hair a sad mess of feathers and straw. Herbie Hancock’s “Rocket” is playing and some dude is like, hey man, you wanna blast off? You’re worried he’s talking about s’ing your D but you still say “yeah sure” because you don’t want people to think you’re grody to the max and so the dude pulls out some coke and extols you to take a snort. You do. It burns. Your vision gets tinted red and a bunch of Italian guys start cheering and saying stuff in their ungodly language, something about “borax” and “crushed Smarties.” Still, you pretend to like it, because you want to sound rad.

That’s what it was like when I tried J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. My whole review, I was like “oh golly this is probably way good but I’m just too stupid to know any better.” Later on, I noticed something strange: John’s Grocery has a whole vertical of Lees going back to the mid 90s. Not because it’s expensive. Because it’s bad and no one likes it.

So I say sure, go ahead, pour that shit in oak. People complain about how horrible the BBA Lees’ ales are, but I don’t see how they could be any worse.

I bring this up because Dry Dock’s Barleywine is, like Lee’s, an English barley wine. And I’m sorry, but this style is shit unless it’s properly Americanized. The genuine British stuff tastes like some kind of weird peat and raisin tea. You got to load some hops into that, or pour in some vanilla, or just fucking stick it in a barrel for a year and hope it comes out palatable.

This—this is palatable. I think it’s a good example of its style, then, in that it’s traditionally British (all filled with figs and rotting teeth) but I’ll be able to finish the bottle. It’s still not quite good, though.

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